Mountain Matters 2015
Late Summer Edition
In This Issue
SUFFI 2015

Early Bird SAVINGS!

SUUFI 2015
The Mountain
October 4-9 2015

Why attendSUUFI (Southern UU Fall Institute) at The Mountain?

Many good reasons...

  • Compelling program
  • Escape the heat at 400' above sea level
  • Fantastic vistas of mountains and valleys
  • Hiking
  • Evening     entertainment
  • Really good food 
  • Renewed sense of community
  • Feeling you've "come home", yet are soaring...

SpaceShip SUUFI Destination: A renewed sense of self and your potential, a state of inspired thinking, new approaches and new understanding all aligned purpose and meaningful action.


The keynoters will balance the cerebral with the sensual - typical of SUUFI. We offer plenty of hands-on and heart-engaging activities, optional unstructured times and even a workshop to grow your skills of leading worship.


Keynote presenters, 

Storyteller David Novak and UU Minister Rev. Roy Reynolds will draw upon world concepts of UU, R. Buckminster Fuller, and British naturalist Giles Hutchins to help us towards a treasured destination. Our voyage will seek to discover the "Deep Within" and the "Deep Without" from the exceptional perspective of Meditation Rock. 


Our cruise includes at least 7 elements:

  1. outstanding food, 
  2. compelling activities (hiking, social hours, dancing, stretch/movement, star gazing), 
  3. entertainment, 
  4. workshop options (photo essay, wine tasting, drumming, companioning circles, etc.), 
  5. shared community with shipmates, 
  6. an exceptional crew, 
  7. and that alluring destination of a renewed sense of self.

Sign up at: by August 25 to get $25 discount: 4, 5, 6 day packages priced at $370, $465 & $560 respectively. Program Details, Flyer, Schedule and "Remembrances" - a photo essay of SUUFI 2014 available on website.   

Take to the Sky!


Empowerment. It can be a difficult trait to acquire, but once felt, the doors of possibility swing open. There is an amazing transformation that takes place when a person is supplied with ability - given the tools and confidence to accomplish something they may have previously considered impossible. 


At The Mountain our programs are designed to empower both individuals and groups. One such program is The Mountain's Low and High Ropes Courses and Initiative Games.


In May, The Mountain received an anonymous donation of $12,000 toward repairs and improvements of the High Ropes Course. A small  portion of the funds were used to build a new challenge, The Wall, and to cover the cost of course inspection, and staff training.
The Wall - 12' high solid wooden wall takes planning and cooperation to get a group up & over.


A favorite activity among Mountain Campers, these activities disguise important team-building skills and exponential personal growth in the form of fun! 


A typical day begins on the Low Ropes Course with introductions, and practicing communication in difference forms - be it spoken or silent, tactile, visual or auditory, communication is key to the successful completion of each game. The games are also exercises in trust and democratic leadership. 


It is through the Initiative Games and the Low Ropes Course that participants are able to establish a sense of belonging, purpose, security, respect, and acceptance prior to entering the High Ropes Course.


After laying the groundwork, participants are able to take to the sky. Our High Ropes Course is thirty feet high and currently composed of four elements. Everything in both the High and Low Ropes Courses is challenge-by-choice - participants choose freely to take part in an activity. Participants deciding not go up the high course, are assigned a task supporting their team from the ground. Encouragement and positive thinking are two of the most important tools, and every team member is integral.


The generosity of the $12,000 donation has been invaluable to the continuation of The Mountain's Ropes Course programs. 


We extend our most sincere and enthusiastic thanks to our donors, without whose support we would all be so much less empowered. 

Behind Every Donation

Every donation is not simply money. It's an act of generosity expressing a special relationship with The Mountain: heartfelt memories, like values, a safe haven, the fun of MountainCamp, working together for a common Mission...
Cantharellus cibarius, commonly known as the chanterelle.

July on The Mountain


It has just rained. Down Padgetts Path, the air feels alive with the earthy smell of woodsy growing things. And seemingly overnight, there are mushrooms everywhere. "...they are known to form primordial bodies overnight," says local mushroom expert, Robert Sprenger. "They can heal or be fatal. Some conjure dark magic...some just taste delicious."  There is historic precedent the hype around these fungi. Ancient Egyptians believed they supported immortality and were the food of royalty. For the Chinese and Japanese cultures, mushrooms were exclusive to the wealthy and served as medicines and health tonics.   

Here in WNC, we live in a smorgasbord of mushrooms. More than 3,000 different varieties of mushroom have been identified - many are medicinal and about 200 are common edibles.


Mushrooms are one of Mother Nature's nutrient powerhouses. Mushrooms are one of the best sources of vegetable protein packed with B vitamins and considered brain food. Scientists are studying mushrooms for cancer, HIV/AIDS treatments, and organic pesticides.


 Many Hands Peace Farm Intern, Matt Whelan, has selected Fungiculture  for his internship project. Fungiculture is the process of producing food, medicine... Matt is working with a diversity of mushrooms: golden oyster, shitake, blewit, reishi, chicken of the woods and king stiopharia. 


Morchella, the true morel has a delicious nutty, meat-like flavor


One day over lunch, Matt told me a particularly gruesome story about the Cordyceps lloydii mushroom. When ingested by an insect, the Cordyceps lloydii takes over the nervous system. The insect then has a sudden impulse to climb to the highest point and anchor itself with its pincers. When it dies, the Cordyceps lloydii mycelium erupts from the ant's head or body, takes over mummifying the ant carcass in white spores. The spores are then released into wind currents. 



Matt seemed to enjoy sharing bizarre fungal stories...he also told me about a honey fungus covering 3.7 sq. miles, thought to be the largest living organism on Earth -between 1,900 and 8,650 years old. He added, "there is no chemical control and it kills all vegetation where it inhabits." Creepy!


 Further along Padgetts Path and along the trail to Chinquapin, I see mushrooms of every color, size, and shape. A small bright coral mushroom may be the much sought after Chanterelle..but don't take my word for it. I'm only a wanna be shroomer.




Reader Alert

The Mountain's housekeeping van is slowly dying beyond repair.  If anyone has a mini-van sitting around that they would like to donate, The Mountain would be most grateful to take it off their hands.

Please contact Ted Wisniewski at 828 526 5838 ext. 245.






Greetings From 
Family Camp
This year we are 120 strong with large representation from the 80s and 90s MountainCamp. 
Wish You Were Here!

Message from Mountain Board Chair
Linda Sterner

 It has been my great joy and good fortune to spend several weeks at The Mountain in June and July this year as a volunteer. I split my work time between kitchen and office chores. On my free time I hiked, interacted with some of our guests and sat looking down into the beautiful Blue Valley from Meditation Rock and Sally's deck. Summertime is a glorious time to be here! Everything is so green and the temperatures are significantly cooler than at home in Charlotte, 10-20 degrees cooler!


 A large part of the joy stemmed from being here during MountainCamp (a first for me). The energy and love surrounding me was amazing. Their voices rising from the campfire and morning circle, their upbeat music during the 4th of July dance, wafting through the mountain laurel branches, and their lively conversations during mealtimes touched my heart. It reminded me of the reasons our founding members were so dedicated to creating a place like this: to foster a safe environment where our UU children could "spread their wings while their UU roots held them close." Their dream is "alive and well" in our current MountainCamp!


I also enjoyed talking with parents as they dropped kids off for camp. Some had been bringing their offspring here for years; others were back to The Mountain for the first time since they were campers themselves. One special reconnection was with Rene Cline, a former camper (one of our very first ASCENDERS), and MountainCamp leader. Invited by Megan Quattlebaum (Youth and Program Director) to speak to our current ASCENDER campers, Rene gave them some history on the past program and learned about its current activities. Rene, who started the Outdoor Adventure camp years ago, is very happy with recent progress to reinvigorate that program. Rene's glowing Facebook note and resulting interchanges tells me that sentiment about The Mountain is thriving. The "grapevine" is helping us grow...let's all encourage the sharing.


My husband Phil and I and 3 young grandchildren are enjoying being here this week at Family Camp. We are very excited that we had a "sell-out" crowd. Make sure to make reservations early for 2016 Family Camp.

Hope to see you there!!



Annual Campaign 2015 Progress 

How Are We Doing?


The Mountain's Tower's proverbial thermometer, is depicting progress toward reaching our 2015 Annual Campaign goal of 240,000. 


This year we're also using the dwarf white oak tree to symbolize our donors' Time (volunteerism), Talent (advocacy), and Treasure(financial support and gifts-in-kind). We're honoring the many ways you, our supporters, give to The Mountain!


How are we doing meeting our Annual Campaign goals? The marker on The Tower reads (46% of our Annual Campaign); our oak tree is measuring a remarkable 54% donor giving.


The Mountain is here because of you and for you, and is sustained through your love and generosity.


"Thank you!"





Sally Bellamy's Deck

is Calling You

Very generous gifts from Prit and Sharon Chowdhuri and Marty Beech are providing the financial stimulus to begin essential upgrades on our beautiful Lodge. "Who doesn't have memories of warm companionship in the Great Room, quiet reflection on Sally Bellamy's deck, or sinking into quiet slumber in a Lodge room?"


"What's wrong with The Lodge," you might be asking? Simply, "A lot!"


Situated atop an exposed mountain of granite rock in the largest temperate rainforest in the world, buildings are constantly battered by the elements. None, more so than The Lodge (5,100 sq. ft.) built over 25 years ago.


The current, now leaking, roof shingles (3,700 sq. ft.) with a lifespan of 25 years must be upgraded to a metal roof graded to withstand the weather and rated for 50 years. Water damage in the Library ceiling from the leaking roof must be repaired. Three rotting decks that includes "Sally Bellamy's Deck" (2,000 sq. ft. total), must be replaced with good composite decking rated for over 20 years.  

Contributing to the current deterioration were decisions made during construction. At that time, the level of exposure was not fully understood and underclass or insubstantial construction choices were made. Specifically, the 17 large glass windows and two glass doors providing impressive lighting and spectacular views in the Great Room and Library, were not sufficiently durable or energy efficient. It is also recommended that the entire exterior of The Lodge be pressure washed and sealed with an exterior poly product.


Yes, a lot of expensive upgrades are essential to rejuvenate Our Lodge - the centerpiece of The Mountain's history and repository of more than 25 years of memories. Join with others to support the rejuvenation of Our Lodge. Repairs to The Lodge will help to preserve this beautiful facility for future generations of heartfelt experiences and memories.





Huldah Warren, The Mountain's 
Director of  Development & Grants accepts a $1600 marketing grant from Bob Kitieki, President of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce. The funds will be used to be able to at least two marketing ads targeting Atlanta and the Northeast GA area.

The Institutional Performance
Team of The Mountain's Board of Directors

Kathleen Anderson

Spartanburg, SC

Kathleen Anderson graduated from both Furman University and the University of South Carolina a long time ago, and is now retired from teaching elementary school children in Spartanburg County, SC.  Her new career is being the Director of Lifespan Religious Education at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Greenville, SC. 

Kathleen first experienced The Mountain at WomenSpirit back in the early '90s; later, her work with teens at church brought her back as a Youth Advisor to many Youth CONs.  Kathleen joined the Board at The Mountain in 2013. She serves on the Institutional Performance Team, which has worked with Vision and Mission, and is presently working with staff to discover ways to strengthen the team community and provide staff development opportunities.

Kathleen presently lives in Landrum, SC with her dog Brody, and an old-lady cat rescued from a dodgy neighborhood on the west end of Greenville.  She still rides horses and plays guitar when time allows, loves her family and friends, and is insanely proud of her grown-up son and daughter-in-law, who both work as historical interpreters in Colonial Williamsburg.  She finds joy every day in the wonders around her and the people she serves in her work.  Life is good.

Meet Board Member
Kit Hamblin 
Atlanta, GA

Kip grew up in Gainesville Florida and had a lifelong interest in the outdoors and natural environments. He received his  BS in Environmental Sciences at the University of West Florida, and a Masters in water resources engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana.

In 2007, Kip began his career with the global engineering firm CH2M HILL in Atlanta. Since then he has become a licensed Professional Engineer focused on watershed resource management throughout the Southeast. He is also an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.

Kit and his wife Anna met as camp counselors at The Mountain and are now active members of UUMAN (UU Metro Atlanta North) where they serve in leadership roles and teachers for the Ministry with Children, and youth program OWL (Our Whole Lives) program. The Hamblins and their two daughters are active in Mountain activities including summer camp and family camp. 

Kit says, "I really appreciate the chance to serve on The Mountain's Board of Trustees working with an amazing and dedicated group of people. On the Institutional Performance Team, I help support The Mountain's sustainable growth while fostering the 'Mountain Magic' found at the heart of the community of people and its natural beauty."


Meet Board Member
Erin Thompson
Athens, GA

Erin, a lifelong resident of Georgia, is currently living in Athens with her husband, Benjy, and two canine children.


She attended the University of Georgia, studied Psychology and Anthropology and transferred that knowlege into her profession as a Quality Assurance manager in the automotive industry.


Erin grew up with summer trips to The Mountain and began MountainCamp in second grade. She attended almost every summer after, including the ASCENDER program and a Leadership School. She worked two summers as a camp counselor, met, fell in love and in 2010 married her husband Benjy at The Mountain.

Erin's Quality Assurance career made her an excellent fit on the Mountain Board's Institutional Performance Team. This committee is responsible for assessing the performance of the organization with respect to The Mountain's vision, mission and policies. 

In Erin's words she is "honored and consider myself lucky to be able to serve on this Board and work alongside all of these talented, passionate and generous people."  

"Cluck Cluck &



With recent donations from Lyn Klarman, Myles Riner, and Sustaining Donor, Elizabeth McMaster, our family is growing with plenty of safe pasture, clean straw and tasty feed. 

 Spend a little time at the bottom of The Many Hands Peace Farm and you'll surely be reminded of our flock of feathered friends."Cock-a-doodle-doo!" 

 With three roosters, the chicken coop can be a noisy place. In total the Farm now houses 26 chickens of varying ages, breeds, colors and temperaments. The one trait they each have in common is they are very happy; and as some of you may know, happy chickens lay tasty eggs!


With appreciation to our donors and their gifts that keep our chickens laying!

"Cluck cluck & cock-a-doodle-doo!"


Rachel Kinback



The Mountain 
Board of Directors


Linda Sterner


Jim Becker  


Rob Marcy

Financial Advisor


Kathlean Anderson

Lem Arnold

Eunice Benton

Rev. Chris Buice

Chris Breivogel

Kit Hamblen

David Hudson

Peter Kandis

Jay Kiskel

Rev. Sherman Logan Jr.

Erin Thompson

Mani Subramanian

Cathlean Utzig


from Executive Director, Ted Wisniewski

I am blessed to be writing to you for the first time as the Executive Director. Just over two years ago we started on this journey together. From the beginning I was embraced by your compassion, understanding and patience. Thank you. 


These first years I was lead by Lee's vision, the Board of Trustee's guidance and your advice. Together we made a difference. Many challenges were laid out, including selling the Turtle pond house, fixing the road and  the waste water/water issues. Thanks to your commitment these obstacles were overcome.


It is the time for me to set a direction for our future. The challenges ahead are many. We have serious infrastructure issues concerning the cornerstone of our business, the Lodge. Its roof, deck, windows and interior all need significant work. Our centerpiece for youth programming, the Tree-house, has serious issues with its windows. We also have a great need to increase the quantity and quality of guest and staff housing. 


Taking care of our patrons is a huge honor and a great responsibility. We must improve: The Mountain's website; the ease of program registration; internet access for guests; consistent quality of meals; and the "feel" of our cabins. We have made strides in the right direction, but plenty of work lies ahead to realize our goals. An old African proverb asks, "How do you eat an elephant, with the answer, one bite at a time."


Although our issues are many, we will tackle them like we have for years, together. The time, talents and treasures of our staff, our board and you are the key to our success. As in the past, we will take one bite at a time and each of these issues will become accomplishments.


Looking ahead...


The Board and I have begun work towards a sustainable business model to include a Strategic Plan to help address our infrastructure issues.  

Gay Spirit Visions, a group meeting at The Mountain for over 25 years, has raised $25,000 in seed money to build new guest housing. Board member, Jay Kiskel, is leading a group of volunteers renovating our website. Our Congregational Mountain Movers are organizing volunteer groups to complete Mountain service projects.


In closing, I am honored to be trusted with the care of our beloved Mountain. Thank you! And thank you for everything you do to demonstrate your love, care and support for this special place.


A Letter Home

Hello from camp!

In honor of the long standing tradition of writing letters here at camp, I thought I'd write all the Mountain people out in the world a letter from camp. I'm sitting in the Light Room with the door open on one of the prettiest days I've seen in a long while. There isn't a cloud in the vivid blue sky, and the sun is lighting up the dwarf white oaks while the wind shakes their leaves into a glimmering frenzy.

 The air, which fueled a whoop of joy from my lungs while walking to the tower, is pure and cool, free of the dust and smog of the city. It is the perfect day to be at camp.


 It's been a wonderful summer here at camp so far. Morning circle has benefited from some great musicians and counselors who brought fresh songs. We have had some incredible workshops on all sorts of topics. One of the most successful workshops was Body Positivity, by one of our returning counselors, Brennan who is an incredible social justice activist.

 Field time (my personal favorite) has kept the classics like Ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag, and an improved crafts program. While all this has been great, evening programs have been amazing! 

 Lee Knight is still bringing down the house, and our talented campers have done the same at coffee house. We also have added a new evening program, game show night, which has been incredibly popular. In addition, we've had some of our strongest reflection and worship programs thanks to Brennan and the talented Luke Jobe.

 Our programs are stronger than ever and our counselors are as great as always.

 Yesterday Outdoor Service and Adventure (who call themselves the Booger Squad), returned from their backpacking trip, which ended by floating down the ancient Chattooga River in kayaks. Sunburned, sore, dirty, and filled with joy and a sense of accomplishment, they are one of the tightest group of High Schoolers I've seen in a long while. I'm sure they will be friends for many years to come.

 We were sad to see the one-week campers leave last Saturday. While the number of campers at The Mountain is lower this week, the energy and spirit hasn't waned one bit. All the campers who are still here have become closer than ever, tying bonds across cabins. 

 We're all looking forward to the big end of camp fair that our head counselor Eileen is planning right now.  

There are only a few days of Intermediate and Outdoor Service and Adventure Camp left, so all the campers and counselors are savoring their remaining time together here in paradise. 

 On closing Saturday, hands will be held and songs will be sung with shimmering eyes, but until then we'll all be making friends and learning about ourselves (and of course having a bucket-load of fun).



Aaron Prestrud

Outdoor Experience Coordinator 
New Mountain Website
Debuting in September
Alex Willocks


Work is currently underway to re-design our website at We're responding to comments regarding our current website. The tenor of those comments is that the website is difficult to navigate, and it's hard to find information about this beautiful place and our retreats. We are determined to address these problems.


Features of the new website include:

Responsive display: The website will re-size its display to your smartphone, tablet or computer.


Improved website navigation: Website menu options have been optimized to ease access to desired information.


Website search option: Information can also be accessed by entering keywords in the website's search engine.


MountainCamp home page: Parents can directly access information on our summer camp programs.


Calendar: The Mountain calendar will actually be in a calendar format! Seeing the events in a calendar format facilitates your planning. Clicking on a calendar event takes you directly to an Event Posting.


Event Posting: Each event held on The Mountain has a individual webpage with relevant information such as a detailed description of the event, key dates for general and early bird registration, listing of an event's guest packages with associated fees and a direct web link to access our partner registration website.


Our new website will continue to rely on our partner online registration website provided by CAMPWISE. We have therefore taken steps to better align the two websites. Tutorial videos are also provided to guide customers through our partner's online registration process.


Board Member, Jay Kiskel, is leading a group of dedicated volunteers and Mountain staff in the website redesign. If you are interested in volunteering your time and talent to help us complete the website, please contact Jay at [email protected].


The newly designed website is scheduled to be released in September.


Stay tuned for next month's Mountain Matters for the exact release date and more new features!

Where Have All the Ants Gone?

Ants of all sizes love to cohabit with staff and guests here at The Mountain. There are tiny, tiny ants, BIG black ants and everything in between.
To encourage the ants' return to their natural habitat, housekeeping used aerosol sprays and bait stations with toxic ingredients such as: i midacloprid, clothianidin, acetamiprid, thiamethoxam...with only short-term results. 

  We then tried an organic essential oil comprising the following oils: clove, cinnamon bark, rosemary, lemon, and eucalyptus. Voila! no more ants.  Just another example of how The Mountain is working toward sustainability and going green!

The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center | 828 526 5838 | [email protected] |
3872 Dillard Road
P.O. Box 1299
Highlands, NC 28741